I recently attended Mental Health First Aider in the Workplace Course along with Claire, Kris and Sarah. It was a two day course which proved to be quite intense and in turn, emotionally and mentally challenging.Over the course of the two days, a high level of engagement and interaction was expected from each of the candidates. Those who were expecting a few lectures and a bit of note taking were in for a shock!

A wide range of mental health problems were explored, including conditions as complex as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. We learned how to recognise the symptoms and manifestations of various mental health problems.

The aim of the course was to equip us as Mental Health First Aiders with the skills necessary to:

  • Recognise symptoms of mental health conditions in the workplace.
  • Offer initial confidential help to the colleague experiencing mental health problems.
  • Guide the colleague towards appropriate support and help.

Completing the course does not enable us, as Mental Health First Aiders, to make a diagnosis. It does however equip us with the skills necessary to provide a sympathetic ear to any colleague experiencing mental health problems in the workplace.

As the second decade of the twenty first century draws to a close, the stigma attached to mental health issues still endures. Colleagues are far less likely to discuss mental health concerns than they are to discuss physical health problems.

How many times have we heard a colleague say that they ‘have a splitting headache?’ Quite a few times, one would guess.

On the other hand, how many times have we heard someone in the office having the courage to say that they feel anxious or depressed. Far fewer, one would think.

This reluctance to be open about mental health problems in the workplace can be for a number of reasons. There can be issues around the perceived weakness of an individual experiencing mental health problems and their ability to “do a good job.” This can lessen the likelihood of a colleague seeking help for their problems.

Mental health wellbeing is as important as physical health wellbeing and the two are often closely linked.

I would hope that colleagues feel comfortable enough to enable them to approach any of the four mental health first aiders if they have any concerns regarding their own mental health or the mental health of a co-worker.

I believe that we, as Mental Health First Aiders, are equipped with sufficient skills to enable us to provide a friendly, sympathetic and non-judgemental ear to any of our colleagues who may be experiencing mental health problems in the workplace.